by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent and the economy shrinking by 0.01 percent a year — with a fifth consecutive $1 trillion annual deficit — are indicators of recovery, what would the old 5 percent unemployment, 4 percent growth in GDP, and $300 billion annual deficits mean? Or do the meaning of words and the nature of “facts” depend on who is in the White House at the time, or rather on whether the president is trying to make us more equal or to enrich the 1 percent?
At key points, whole controversies vanish without a trace. Suddenly, about four years ago, Guantanamo was no longer a gulag. Then it became no longer much of anything — in the manner that renditions, preventive detention, tribunals, and drone assassinations likewise disappeared from public discourse even as they became institutionalized.
We can scarcely remember now that the country tore itself apart over the waterboarding of three confessed terrorists, as it snoozes through its government blowing apart 2,500 suspected terrorists — and anyone caught in their general vicinity when the drone missiles hit. I think the logic must have been that a reactionary George Bush wished to waterboard a few confessed terrorists more just to bend the law than to derive any information that might save Americans — whereas Barack Obama actually reads the great ethical philosophers as he “reluctantly” signs off on targeted assassinations that have no doubt saved more people than he ordered killed. And we have to understand that if we were to object to such a kill tally, we would thereby be endangering the greater good to come at home over bothersome details abroad.
We have only a faint memory of promises of no more lobbyists in government, no more revolving doors, a new civility, a new transparency, and a new bipartisanship. Do we now even remember all those slogans that went up on the barnyard wall, and have since been painted over? When the president lectured us that the captains of Wall Street were not to get bonuses for snagging federal bailouts, he was not speaking of his future secretary of the Treasury, a progressive who does what must be done for the people.